NERRIGUNDAH is just 18km from Bodalla (approx 25 minutes) however the journey takes you deep into the heartland of Eurobodalla.
There isn't a lot to see in Nerrigundah however with a good imagination the place comes alive. In the late nineteenth century, Nerrigundah was a gold mining town with a booming population of 11,000. Now with a population of only 30, the settlement still has a very rich and exciting history.
The Gold Rush
Alluvial gold had been found in the nearby steep narrow valley of Gulph Creek in 1861 sparking a rush with 200 - 300 men on site within weeks, many from Araluen. By 1866, the Gulph goldfields had passed their peak, yet Nerrigundah still had five hotels, several stores, a police barracks, and a town population of a few hundred with about 2,000, including many Chinese, in surrounding areas. The overall production of gold was 38 tons of gold remembering there was no recording of alluvial gold then - just when a hard rock mining lease was granted & tonnage out put required to pay royalty. The consequence was that many more tons slipped away thru a variety of gold buyers to dodge royalty.
Nerrigundah was never anything but a small mining town. A steady trickle of gold from local diggings over a long period kept it alive into the 1930s. The Gulph is reputed to have produced some of the purest gold in the Colony.
An historic Nerrigundah Village Trail was created by locals Norman and Vin Dickson for visitors to the town and it is available for your interest HERE.
On Sunday, April 8, 1866 the gang took over a hut beside Deep Creek, just south of Nerrigundah, and held up the passers by. Among them was Moruyah storekeeper, John Emmott, who was riding home with his dealings. The gang shot his horse from under him, robbed him of the small fortune in his possession, shot him in the thigh and hit him on the head with a pistol. Not satisfied with their gains and perhaps fueled by the ease of their pickings five of the gang rode into Nerrigundah and held up the diggers at the hotel.
Two more entered Pollock's Store, now a museum with local information. The owner, one of the main gold purchasers, was forced to furnish the key to his safe. However, while the gang were herding more of victims into the hotel Mrs Pollock snatched the safe key from Thomas Clarke and threw it across the street, where one of her children clinched it between his toes and walked off with it. A candlelight search in the gloom by Clarke proved fruitless.
Trooper Miles O'Grady and another trooper entered the hotel just as two of the gang were threatening to kill local butcher, Robert Drew, who had thrown a roll of notes over their heads behind the bar. O'Grady fired at the two men, narrowly missing Patrick O'Connell but killing William Fletcher, a young jockey and son of a prosperous Batemans Bay farmer, who had only joined the gang the previous day. O'Grady was then shot in the return fire from William Clarke. The gang then fled town, picked up the other gang members from their base on Deep Creek and journeyed north.
Sergeant Hitch, the officer in charge of the Nerrigundah police returned from Moruya and organised a twelve-man posse. They ambushed the gang at Eucumbene River but no-one was captured, the only victim being a pack horse laden with goods from the store. They were officially declared outlaws the following month.
The historic Miles O'Grady Obelisk stands near the place he was shot. The monument is in honour of O'Grady who was buried in Moruya cemetery. Fletcher's grave, which was allegedly wrapped in bark, was laid and can still be found outside of the Nerrigundah cemetery, about 25 metres from the back right-hand corner. The cemetery itself is behind a grove of wattle trees a hundred metres beyond the monument and slightly to its right.
In addition to the bushranger history that brings visitors to Nerrigundah is the very strong links that Nerrigundah has to the gold rush. It isn't at all unusual to see modern day prospectors making their way up and down gullies and creeks in search f the mother lode.
One famous mine was Comans Mine, opened in the 1880s by EJ Coman and his partner Bloomfield. It operated for a brief but unsuccessful period and by 1889 was left idle and the population began to dwindle.
The mine may have been worked periodically since but it wasn't reopened until 1938 by Radiant Mines. It was last worked by Immarna Mines from 1947 to 1950, but there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that the hunt for gold may have continued through to the 1960s. Today, a walking trail passes by relics of the mine, including the stamper battery used to crush ore and the railway tracks used to move ore from the shafts.
The site today is a historic monument to life as it was back then and you can still view the old stamper battery (below) and parts of a tramway, which was used to bring the gold ore from the mines for processing.
This is a great spot to have a picnic and take in some bush history while you’re at it, there is a picnic table provided but it is a 1.5 kilometre return walk from the parking area to the mine site itself so bring sensible footwear and watch out for leeches! You can find more info in this Brouchure
As you come or go from Nerrigundah take note of the intersection of Nerrigundah Road and Eurobodalla Road. Here you will find a monument to Australia’s first poet, Charles Harpur.
Why a monument here in such an out of the way place. Because Charles is buried at the top of the hill.
A collected edition of Harpur's poems was not published until 1883. The unknown editor stated that he had "had to supply those final revisions which the author had been obliged to leave unmade". This work does not appear to have been well done, and several already published poems which needed no revision were not included. The manuscripts of Harpur's poems are at the Mitchell Library, Sydney, and a portrait is in the council chamber at Windsor.
Harpur was the first Australian poet worthy of the name. He is little read today and the tendency has been to under-rate him in comparison with other writers of the nineteenth century. He may have been slightly influenced by William Wordsworth but he is not really a derivative poet, and his best work is excellent. He is represented in several Australian anthologies
In 1853, Harpur published his most significant collection of poetry, The Bushrangers, a play in five acts, and other poems. The play, a tragedy in blank verse, was the first by an Australian-born writer to be printed in the country, though its literary merits are generally considered superior to its dramatic qualities.
In 1859, Harpur was appointed assistant gold commissioner at the goldfields in southern New South Wales, and spent the next seven years acting in that capacity. After his appointment expired in 1866, Harpur retired to his farm on the Tuross River, but met with a series of misfortunes; one of his sons died in an accident and the farm was devastated by flooding. Harpur himself became ill with tuberculosis, and died on 8 June 1868. He was survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters. One of his daughters, writing many years later, mentioned that he had left his family an unencumbered farm and a well-furnished comfortable home.
Harpur was the first Australian writer to attempt to deal seriously with local realities, producing tragedies and epics on Australian subjects at a time when it was generally assumed that Australian material was unsuitable for work in the higher literary genres. Yet he was also one of the most accomplished of those writing comic and satirical poems on political and other local events. At almost the opposite pole from Harpur's often savage satires are his love poems, especially the series of sonnets initially addressed to ‘Rosa’ (in reality his wife Mary Doyle). Like English writers of the period, Harpur also produced long historical and philosophical poems based on biblical and classical subjects, such as his The Witch of Hebron and The Tower of the Dream.
He is buried on the `Euroma` property next to his son.